Breast Cancer Survivor

Hope is essential for survival...and a good treatment plan!

Name: Rosemary Herron
Hometown: Sugar Land, Texas
Age (optional): 59
Type of Cancer: Breast Cancer (ductal carcinoma)
Date of Diagnosis: 2001
Stage at Diagnosis: 2a
Current Date: July 2009
Current Status: Disease Free

1. How was your health when you were diagnosed?
I was in excellent health so the diagnosis was a shock.

2. Where were you initially diagnosed?
I was diagnosed at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital in Houston, TX, however I decided to have treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The doctors on my healthcare team were Medical Oncologist, Eva Thomas, MD, Surgical Oncologist, S. Eva Singletary, MD and Radiation Oncologist, Eric A. Strom, MD.

3. What treatment was initially recommended?
After my diagnosis, I enrolled in a clinical trial and began a six-month course of chemotherapy. The first drug I was given was paclitaxel. In the study, I was randomized to once every three weeks. I would go into the hospital, get hooked up to a pump in a little fanny pack around my waist, and then go home. When the 24 hours were up, I would go back to the hospital and get disconnected.

The second three months I had a chemotherapy cocktail of FAC – fluorouracil, doxorubicin (adriamycin) and cytoxan. I wore the fanny pack pump for 72 hours every three weeks. After I finished the chemotherapy, the doctors waited a month and scheduled surgery – a lumpectomy with sentinel node mapping and dissection. The doctors thankfully found no lymph node involvement. I then followed up the surgery with 30 radiation treatments.

4. Did you get a 2nd or 3rd opinion? If so, where?
No

5. Are you still in treatment?
I just finished the yearlong TEACH clinical trial in April 2009. (Tykerb Evaluation After Chemotherapy (TEACH): Lapatinib versus Placebo in Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer).

I am estrogen and progesterone positive, and after I completed my initial chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, I continued with adjuvant medical treatment for the next five years. I took tamoxifen for the first two and a half years. At that time, a study showed that exemestane tablets could reduce the chance that women like me would have new breast cancer or a recurrence, so I took those for the next two and a half years.

Additionally, I am HER2/neu positive and completed a clinical trial for lapatinib in April 2009. The trial was to determine if lapatinib (tykerb) would be effective in preventing recurrences in early stage HER2/neu positive patients who had not taken herceptin.

6. Did you participate in a Clinical Trial?
Yes, just after I was diagnosed in 2001, and again in 2008. Study Protocol 98-240, which was conducted to determine which dosage and frequency of administration of taxol (paclitaxel) was best tolerated by patients.

7. Do you engage in any other homeopathic remedies or treatments?
No.

8. Did you change your diet? How is it different from before your diagnosis?
I now limit starches, eat less beef and more fish and chicken and also eat more vegetables.

9. Did you change your exercise program? How is it different from before your diagnosis?
No, I resumed my exercise regimen.

10. Do you take any nutritional supplements? If so, what do you take?
Calcium and Vitamin D

11. Did you change your stress reduction program? How is it different from before your diagnosis?
I did not need a stress reduction program.

12. Are you currently considered to be disease free?
Yes

13. How long have you been disease free?
7 years

14. What are you doing to stay disease free?
I took lapatinib for a full year and maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine.

15. What do you think is the most important thing you did to combat your cancer?
I entered into treatment with a plan and a positive attitude AND I cooperated with my healthcare team.

16. Are you willing to have a newly diagnosed patient contact you?
Most certainly. I am very active in local breast cancer awareness organizations and frequently have newly diagnosed women contact me.

17. Brief Additional Narrative
I remember what it was like when I was first diagnosed. Even though I was a nurse and I knew what was coming, at my first appointment I had all the same anxieties that anyone would have.

As I navigated this difficult journey, I had five things on which I focused most. I relied on my faith and put everything into God’s hands. Hope was essential – breast cancer is not a death sentence if diagnosed early. I was optimistic while being realistic; I’ve found the women that have positive attitudes tend to get through their treatments better. Communicate with friends and family – they are hurting too.

Finally – live life! Say yes to new experiences and live day to day with no regrets.

 

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